Badminton: Internationals return to Auckland

Top badminton returns to New Zealand with the staging of the Auckland International next weekend, featuring close to 100 players from 11 nations.

The tournament will be held at the Auckland Badminton Stadium at Gillies Ave from June 21-24 and will have some players of real note taking part.

Former Commonwealth Games gold medallist and two-time British Olympian Tracey Hallam has entered the event, as has former world top 30 ranked Andrew Smith from England.

Hallam, who reached a career-high world ranking of seven in her career and made the quarter-finals at the Athens Olympics, currently resides in the Waikato and works in schools in the region.

Australian Olympic representative Victoria Na has entered in preparation for her London Games appearance and will be top seed, while fellow Olympian Mohamed Alfan Fasheed from the Maldives is confirmed in the men's singles.

The men's top seed will be Southland's James Eunson, with former New Zealand-based American Bjorn Seguin second seed followed by Smith.

Players such as Southland's Anna Rankin and Waikato's Amanda Brown will be aiming to stop Na taking the women's singles while it is likely that Hallam will be unseeded in the draw.

The men's doubles will be a good test for the Kiwis, particularly Oliver Leydon-Davis and Kevin Dennerly-Minturn who have been living and training in the badminton stronghold of Denmark for much of the past year. This will be their first tournament in New Zealand in 2012.

The pair won a crucial match in the Thomas Cup Oceania final against Australia earlier this year to help New Zealand qualify against the odds for the Thomas Cup world finals.


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